Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has described as his saddest the day he appeared before the military tribunal that tried him for alleged complicity in a coup against late former military dictator, Sani Abacha.
Obasanjo disclosed on Tuesday this while leading a morning devotion to mark Valentine’s Day at his Presidential Hilltop residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State. “My saddest day was when I sat in front of a military panel set up by late former Head of State, Sani Abacha to try me over a phantom coup, and sentenced to death and later commuted to 30 years imprisonment,” he said. Obasanjo was tried by the tribunal in 1996 alongside his former deputy when he was head of state, Shehu Yar’adua. Mr. Yar’adua later died in 1997 while serving his prison sentence.
Obasanjo was released from prison after Abacha died mysteriously in 1998. A year later, he was elected President when Nigeria returned to democracy and became the first person to lead the country twice. Obasanjo, who read from the Bible book of Isaiah 45:1-4, recalled that, following the jail term slammed on him, he had asked himself if he deserved the treatment meted to him, but that he left everything in the hand of God.
“God has always been giving me immense favour beyond my own expectations and what I deserve from Him. And I used to tell people that God has been partial to me from childhood,” he told his guests on Tuesday. He said following pressure from international community leaders which included former American president, Jimmy Carter, the Abacha regime reduced his sentence to 15 years. He said had Mr. Abacha lived, he (Obasanjo) would have spent a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Obasanjo said the death of Abacha saw him spend only three years in prison, pointing out that as part of the partiality of God to him, he came out from prisons to meet an agitation for him to contest for president, adding, “but the rest is history”. “I was born in a village and anybody born in that village would have concluded that the popularity of those born there would not go beyond the next village. My parents were complete illiterates,” he said.
The former president said, there would always be trouble and problems in life, but that if one is prayerful and close to God, they would overcome. He recalled that he had strayed into the army, from which he retired as a general and head of state on October 1, 1979. He said he had experienced tribulations in his life but that God has been on his side throughout. He then prayed for longevity for all his guests.